American History TV CSPAN July 20, 2014 3:00pm-4:01pm EDT
river. >> i have to be honest with you, firstou hear that, when i heard that i heard we lost our water. your like losing electricity. we'll do without and we'll get so.ack in a day or no, it is totally different than water. isa water treatment plant cocontaminated, the whole system is contaminated. it is not like you can light a or a candle when the electricity goes out. when the water goes out, there's your toilet, no water in your bathtub, no water in your house. to sink in and i told this is really bad isn't it and he said this is really bad.really, you are going to have 200,000-250,000 people who don't have water.
>> when des moines got hit and lost its water, the presidents back, the media was back and there was some very touching moments, i think, for the president when people came up and he heard stories what they had loss. there was one lady in particular saying, i can't take it anymore.
it was a sincere moment. it wasn't politically staged. i think it affected him. he told me he was very impressed about what he saw going on there. what he saw in the community, one of the things that impressed me, we didn't have water. they trucked water in. the national forward would truck water in and these big huge tanker trucks. kind of like you see driving down the highway hauling other fluids like gasoline or something like that. these were big huge tanker trucks. they would park the trucks at a high school or at a shopping mall and people would come up with their bottles and what not. what i recall more than anything else, is how these areas of water distributions became like town squares, 150 years ago. people would meet there. neighbors would get together there. they would exchange news.
they talked about what was going on in their neighborhoods in their part of the city. they didn't just come for water. certainly many of them did. lot of them would stick around for hours at a time seeing people and talking to people >> last night at 1:00, we were trying to bring our little pump that was going to fill the system and it bringing it up and it failed. >> the efforts that went into fixing the des moines water works, treatment plant, it looked like a war zone down there. huge helicopters flying in these big motors and pumps. the national guard helicopters throwing sandbags down on to levies and stuff. it was impressive. it was frightening in many ways too to see this happening in these familiar places in your own city. it was down right scary but it
was also really impressive. i think kind of sandbag central if you will was the bridge. they had more people down there than they could put to work. they couldn't save the waterworks. the waterworks was all gone, or all under water by that time. that particular area kind of became sandbag central and people would just show up for days and days on end just to fill sandbags. >> well, believe it or not, we've made it. we can drink from the tap. safe from all consumptions, babies, dog and elderly. >> it was one of the greatest moments i think when mcmullin announced to the people that we were getting our water back. then about a week later, that we could drink our water. there was zones -- the city was divided up into zones. zone a, b, c and d and things like this. zone a could do this at this
time on this day. zone b would do this at this time on that day. eventually if you bring the whole thing back online. i think there are a lot of people here who have a lot more respect for those rivers than they did 21 years ago. it's not fearful type of respect but also kind of an admiral sort of respect. these are the lifeblood. these are the veins of the community. now within the past five or ten years, the river is becoming a focal point of the city again. it's kind of getting back to i think, maybe what the city was 150 years ago or so when the river was the reason we were
here. kind of neat. >> all weekend major history tv is featuring iowa's capital city des moines. its economy in the late 1800's centered on coal mining. now des moines is a major insurance center. hosted by our media com cable partners, c-span team recently visited many sites showcasing the city's history. learn more about des moines, iowa here on american history tv. >> we are at the henry a. wallace country life center which is 50 miles south and west of des moines. wallace center of iowa consist of two historic locations. both honoring the three generations wallace's. there's a wallace house in sherman hill in des moines and
there's 40-acre farm, the henry a. wallace country life center. henry a. and henry c. and uncle henry were always involved in food. our work doses not resolve around the museum. our work resolves around communities and programming and foods and civility initiative. on the farm, we raised fruits and vegetables and we used the produce in our restaurant and we go to farmers market. henry a. wallace is probably the most known of the three generations of wallace's. he was born on this farm. he went on to become editor of wallace's farm magazine. he was then asked by franklin roosevelt to serve as u.s. secretary of agriculture which he did for eight years from 1933
to 1941. and 1941 to 1945, he was roosevelt's vice president and he was founder of pioneer hybrid international which is now dupont pioneer. he was a progressive party candidate in 1948. thought his life he was a scientist and humanitarian. the wallace's of iowa disease of three -- consist of three generations. uncle henry, he worked in winterset iowa. he was the founder of wallace's farmer magazine. he was champion for world america. his son, henry, henry c. wallace, was u.s. secretary of agriculture under woodrow wilson
from 1921 to 1924. about three years, he died in office. henry c. son was born on this farm in 1888 and i've already told you about henry a. wallace. this farm is significant because he lived here until he was four years old. we get to claim him. all three generations were concerned about world prosperity and how they could help people better understand farming and how they felt it was important that people were close to the soil. henry a. wallace was taking a walk and waterworks parks in des moines and western union person came up to him with a telegram and it was from franklin roosevelt asking him to be his secretary of agriculture. he came into that position in 1933 when farm prices were at an
all time low, when land, soil had eroded from places that should never have been plowed. there were many problems that he had to deal with. as u.s. secretary of agriculture, he is known for the agricultural adjustment act, which was the first time that farmers were asked not to produce. they kept producing and kept producing and so prices were going down. they needed to do things in the marketplace that would -- that would be a need for the product. at first, people couldn't believe that the things that he was proposing regarding that. then as prices went up, they started to listen to him. people still refer to him today as the genius secretary of
agriculture. he led farmers through that horrible time when some of them didn't know where to turn next. they didn't have any money. their farms were being lost and prices because of pricing being so low. he was hero as u.s. secretary agriculture. in 1940 president roosevelt asked henry a. wallace to be his vice president. so henry a. wallace agreed at that time in conventions, they had to vote on who was going to be the presidential candidate and who was going to be the vice presidential candidate. he was on the ticket in 1940 and they won as a team and in 1941 he took the oath of office as u.s. vice president. henry a. wallace had four years as a vice president.
during that time, he did more than any other vice president had done up until that time. he served as president roosevelt's liaison to the manhattan project. that was the development of energy for weaponry. at first, he was intrigued by the whole notion of nuclear energy. but when he saw what was being developed, he stood up and he said, no, this cannot be used for -- against other human beings. when he made point such as that and he wasn't afraid to make those type of statements and talk about it, he began to be questioned by other people and he wasn't -- he became less
popular through the years. another thing related to the war, the war was winding down. he became vocal that the united states should not get into an adversarial position with the soviet union. because people were all ready talking about that russia was going to be the next entity that the united states needed to be fearful of. because of that, that was the downfall for henry a. wallace. we know what happened after that. the united states did get into a long cold war with the soviet union. things probably would have been a lot different if people would have listened to him. that was the demise of his political carrier concerning the vice presidency of the united
states. some of the things that he was saying publicly got the attention of the progressive party. they came to him and asked if he would be their presidential candidate for the 1948 election. he agreed to do that. because being out of washington d.c., he felt he was freer to say things that he felt were important to the country. he was not afraid to go into the south. in fact, he was the first presidential candidate to do this, to go into the south and oppose the jim crow laws. he talked about equal pay for equal work. he talked about that it was right to have the lunch program in the schools. he talked about things that were way ahead of the thinking of the
majority of the people in the united states. he did not get many votes in the 1948 election. he lived out of last years of his life in the state of new york. he acquired lou gherig's disease. this is just a testament to the scientists he was his whole life. when he found out the diagnosis, he called the centers for disease control and said, you can use me to figure out this horrible disease. you can take tissue samples. you can do whatever you need to do. that was the scientist in him. he lived about less than two years after the diagnosis. a few months before he died,
when he could still speak, he was asked by a reporter what do you think is the greatest problem facing the united states. he said, people moving away from the land. because it's happening soon, there will be problems with the economy, with the environment and with communities. >> throughout the weekend, american history tv is featuring des moines, iowa. our team traveled there to learn about its rich history. learn more about des moines on c-span's city tour at c -span.com/local content. you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span 3. >> reachable exclusively by foot bridge on the virginia side of
the river, theodore r. island honors our only manhattan born president. a city boy from the rugged vistas endangered by human exploitation. as a result, there's an a whiff of trough surrounding this 17-foot statue. t.r.'s daughter, was alleged to have called it the ugliest thing she ever saw. publicly, she was graciousness when dedicating the memorial to our 27th president. t.r. is flanked by a series of stones inscribed with
roosevelt's quotations. a raised plaza, and fountains completely memorial. the wilderness backdrop does at least as much to invoke the spirit of the great outdoorsman. in the 17th citigroup century - century, a group of indians reside on the island. for the next 30 years, the hely wooded island was less pristine. today, theodore roosevelt has 400 variety of plants and over eight different species of birds.
>> by this time in the world, lot of soldiers had been away from their homes for about three to four years. they were getting letters home saying, the farm is falling to pieces. we have patrollers in the area. there's a large problem of -- a fairly strict set of orders that desserters will be sometime shot and definitely the punishment -- there were several occurrences of this happening. moral was so low, les miserables came out. there were several confederate
troops and they saw him on the shelf. he said, oh that's up. >> every weekend we're marking the 150th anniversary of the civil war about people and events that shape the area. saturday at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. eastern here on american history tv on c-span 3. >> each week, american history tv real america brings you archival films that help tell the story of the 20th industry. on july 20, 1969, neil armstrog became the first person to set foot on the moon. >> 20 seconds and counting. 15 seconds, 12, 11, 10, 9,
ignition sequence start.
>> coming up next, a commemorative ceremony manager the 150th anniversary of the washington arsenal explosion that killed 21 women. any of the victims were young and irish immigrants. the youngest to die was 12 years old. the ceremony takes place at the
historical congressional cemetery next to a monument. the event runs about 30 minutes. >> hello everybody, my name is paul williams. i want to welcome you here to the cemetery and i'm certainly happy that our weather has held off so far. i want to welcome you to the sesquicentennial commemoration of the funeral of the 21 women killed in the 1864 explosion at the washington arsenal. first the honor guard of the chesapeake home guard of the sons of veteran reserve will post the colors.
>> ladies and gentlemen if i could have you stand up plaza. leading up in the pledge of allegiance today will be asia elliott. >> i pledge of allegiance, to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
>> thank you asia. you can take your seats please. i like to introduce our civil war, steve hammond who will introduce our speaker. >> thank you paul. this has been an eventful week for us here at congressional cemetery. we had an event at fort mcnair tuesday at the exact moment of the explosion occurred. we remembered then and we will remember now the women who were killed that day. on wednesday, we had a visit from emon gilmore the prime minster of the republic of ireland. he played a wreath to remember
those women, many who were whom irish immigrant. today our speaker will be erin voorheis. i met erin shorting after her father passed away and we've become friends. i helped provide her names of publishers. i especially loved the publisher who liked the book but didn't like the conclusion. which -- i'm sitting here going, it blew up, what else. what can i say. i've gotten to know erin fairly well since then. just trying to do research to follow what her father was doing. in fact, when the book finally made it into print, erin had a book party. she invited me to it but i had to turn her down because my daughter was getting married
that day. you know, priorities. basically, she's going to tell you a little bit about what went on, what happened here, why we're here today and everything involved ultimately help getting her father's book published hainault things that follow -- published and all of the things that followed it. so now, erin voorheis. >> thank you all for coming and thank congressional for rallying for all the events this week. i appreciate it. i found this cloak when i was researching this speech. it was by a polish poet. the living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them. i really appreciate that you're here and if you haven't -- some of you know know the arsenal story.
after today, you will tell it in your own way. first, i'll just start by giving you sort of a brief account of the arsenal explosion. i'll tell you a little bit about my dad, brian bergin. hopefully we'll be right on time today. the washington arsenal is what is now fort mcnair. june 17, 1864 was the day of the notion. at this time, d.c. is admired in the civil war. most families are mourning the loss of someone that was killed in the conflict. this explosion could easily have been just another round of deaths that could have been forgotten. it touched the surrounding community deeply. june 17th was a hot day. sort of like earlier in the week. the women showed up in their hoop skirts for their work at
the washington arsenal. they would work normally until 6:00 p.m. they had a morning break for breakfast and afternoon break for one hour for lunch. the women were typically hired because they were seen being in need. they were often widows of union soldier, the wife of a prison of war or daughter of a widow. they usually earned between 40 to 75 cents a day. this is a good wage for women at that time. certainly not the same what they would pay a man to do the same job. they were hired because it was cheaper. the women that typically worked at the the arsenal were in their 20's to 40's. the youngest was 12. these women certainly knew what they were doing with a dangerous
job. the washington arsenal employees had just sent money up to the pittsburgh arsenal workers because there was the allegheny arsenal explosion prayer to this one. they just taken up a fund and sent them some money. the women that we remember worked in the choking room. they are tieing off cart raj -- cartages that were used for the war. it was filled with gun powder and a bullet at the end. it was open at the top when it arrived to the women. the women would tie it off with thread and stack it in a wooden box. now the ordinance manual for safety rared that these boxes be removalled from the room once they were full. this is for safety reasons. unfortunately, this practice was not done and the boxes were stored throughout the whole ram.
on the morning of june 17th, the superintendent of the arsenal thomas brown, goes out and he places three pans of explosive star pellets out to dry. they were in black pans. the pellet were explosives but they were to used for fireworks. he taken the recipe and he doctored it and improved a little bit. he had these pan not too far away from the building. he leaves his pan unattended on this hot d.c. summer day. he returned to the laboratory building and this odd twist of faith, he finds one the choking room girls is laughing and talking too much. she's fired on the spot because are the workers were not allowed to talk. they can occasionally sing. obviously, she's fired, i'm sure it would seem like the worse day
of her life. all of a sudden became the best day of her life. i remember these pans were explosives. now they past the point of drying and they're actually cooking. the sun creates a spontaneous combustion in these pans. the explosion starts to spark and the sparks flies through the open window into the laboratory south wall, this is at 11:50 in the morning. it lands on the work table in a blinding flash, it shoots along the top of the table and it's gobbling up all of the specks of gun powder that had been dropped. it was described as a fire. the room was certainly hot before the explosion, it was a hundred degrees.
it shot up over 3000 degrees in less an that second. most of the women that were killed that day were killed in the first fraction of a second when they breathed in that super heat the gas that was there. there were 28 women in that rom and they all sat along a 30-foot table and they sat on benches. that was how they worked. they were sitting in their cotton hoop skirts and to escape from a bench it's difficult to do. as they're escaping, their dresses are brushing along bits of fire. their dresses are the starch cot and they go up in flames. lot of them were burned instantly. the arsenal men obviously hear and see this explosion. they know inside that building are their sisters and their neighbors and they run right to the building into harms way to tray and help. these men are typically in wool
uniform and they're not ignited by the fire as quickly. they run in to help the women. the men suffered some more minor burns but they weren't just burned beyond recognition like the women were. 12 women make it out of the room. pinky scott was 31 and she was a widow, she had two children. she's knocked to the floor unconscious by the blast. she wakes up under several body. she runs out of the north gate. she look down and realizes how badly burned she is. she faints. she's carried home to recover. sarah kidwell is taken home when her clothes are cut, they find
there's gobs of melted led from the hoop skirt that have melted through her clothes and seared into her skin. when the death toll counted for that day, there are seven identified victims and eight unidentitied. four of the victims succumbed to their injury later or treatment and they died in the subsequent week. that brings us to the total of 21 victims here in the recovery process begins and many of the remains that day were gruesome. they are unidentifiable, burned, charred, bones. there are two investigations that take place after this event. one is commissioned by secretary of war stanton and one by the coroner. no women are interviewed in any of the investigations. on the basis of these investigations, the government determined that it's going to pay for the funeral expenses.
at this point, the workers while they are poor, they're rich in organizing skill. the explosion happened on a friday, at the end of sunday, basically two days after this disaster, they would have planned and executed the biggest public funeral that d.c. ever saw up to that point. only bigger one would have been lincoln. the funeral took place in the arsenal's north yard. it's grass and beautiful trees. they had a canopy stage set up. this is made by the workers. it was draped in cloth and there was a black edge american flag decorated by the arsenal women. there were two rows of coffin, the identitied and unidentified. they had seas dignitaries. this is his first public funeral since the death of his son,
willie in 1862. stanton too had last an infant son recently. lincoln's presence at this funeral was sort of a heart felt gesture from one parent to another about the grief of losing a child. lincoln's schedule was busy. the ceremony was conducted by a catholic priest. the veterans reserve core were there being bounces and clearing the stage for the dignitaries and the family. in setting up the procession, they run out of hearses. they head out the arsenal nap
and they plan -- and they plan this path to go past the houses that most of the women workers lived in. this is a visible route. while they passed many of the houses that the women came from, they also passed the house of superintendent thomas brown. the procession goes up pennsylvania around the capitol and eventually comes here to congressional cemetery. at the cemetery, we have two graves, the coffins of the known and unknown. after the cemetery is over, the mourners head home and try to go pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. there's a lot of effects of this explosion. so monday, the mother of elin roach died. people at this time said it was of a broken heart. on july 4th, pinky scott the wouldn't who pulled herself out, she died of her wounds. there are two children who are
orphaned, their aunt margaret was to take care of them. she was arrested and the girls was adopted by a prominent d.c. family. thomas brown is relieved of his supervisory responsibility. $175 goes to each orphan child and $9.50 goes to each woman in the fire. that was to replace her clothing. that was the only government money that was distributed to the family. my dad's favorite part of the story is next. it talks about the workers. monday morning, the workers come together after the funeral that they've just planned and executed and they decide that every one should donate a day's
wage to have a monument built to remember these women. one year, they've raised the money and collected it. they had a design competition that was implemented throughout the east coast and a winner is chosen. he's a 28-year-old stone cutter from ireland. the monument is built and erected and it stands before us now. one the questions we have, we don't know if it was ever dedicated because lincoln's assassination came in and ground their plan -- interrupted their plans. i just want to make mention of the ancient order. you can see that the names of the women are wearing away with time and pollution. this granite stone will preserve
their names. on one side of it, it says, erected by public contribution by the citizens of washington d.c. june 17, 1865. my dad said, this monument was beautiful. because of the these lost lives are meaningful. my dad also loved the statute at the top and it's called grief. sort of uncharacteristicically not in the hoop skirt that killed so many of those women. lastly before i finish, i like to tell you a little bit about my dad. if he was here, he wouldn't tell you anything. i think my dad in all of this has really gotten the last laugh. growing up, i was a english major, i'm a novel reader, i'm not a historical reader. he just think it's hysterical
that i go around and speak about civil war events. all of this time nagging me to read his historical work is coming to fruition right here. as far back as i can remember, my dad always read to me or told me stories. our house is certainly nothing that would have been impressed an interior decorator. we had tons of books everywhere. the amount that i had to do, since i said earlier, history was certainly not the thing that i love. i didn't see the importance of learning about the past when i was younger. at some point in my 20 20 -- 2,
i begin to see how important it was. if he could set up the contacts of the events in the war and paint a picture of what happened that day and how the geography mattered and how the personalities came to bear for good or for evil. i learned a lot of history stories through him. typically, christmas gifts were always these huge books that had long footnotes that i didn't like reading. usually i got the strategy down where he would give me the book and i would read the first couple of chapters and then i knew if i sort of played my cards right had a couple of good questions, i can usually get him to tell me the story so i know what the book was about. i know thats sounds very lazy,
his stories were so much better than anything i could read. it really made it come alive. i hope that the arsenal women story has come alive for you today. i just want to thank you for coming out and remembering these women and hearing a bit of their story and thank you for telling their story in our own way. thanks so much. [applause] >> thank you erin. i like to tell at least two stories about your father. one to the fact, any of you who have been coming here to the cemetery over the past few years, have seen that we had national park service craftsman actually doing work on the senate test and here on this monument. when brian was here, there was scaffolding. he didn't climb up to take picture. we were like, be careful. other thing i should say is,
erin spent me a photograph after her father died, he got a v.a. headstone. you see around here. on it, it stays his name and then eat dessert first. which is just a wonderful thing to remember. just so you all understand as we said, 15 are buried underneath in monument. eight and 17 and pinky scott was buried here with the rest of the group after she passed. so 15 here. if you go over this way, really not too far, you'll see an unmarked grave that actually have two u.s. flags in it. that's where annie bay is. back over that direction, you'll see again an unmarked grave with two flags on it. that is sally mcel frish.
there are four graves. both of them are currently unmarked. i am trying to get the v.a. to give us headstones for it. so far, they've been turn -- even though we have a note -- if you look at the book, there's actually a message from secretary stanton saying we will take care all of the payment for these funerals. but didn't work out that way and the v.a. is not helping us. we'll take care of that. at this point, i want to take a moment to remember the women who died in the service of their country and their families and we'll start with the tolling of
the bell over there. [bell ringing] >> and now the names of the
women. melissa adams, annie bache, emma baird, lizzy browler, betty, kate, mary burroughs, emma lee collins johanna collins, margaret harran, rebecca hull, lacy, sally, julia mcewing,
ellen roche, pinky scott, w.e. tippett and margaret. 15 are buried here beneath the monument, the other four are buried in the roman catholic cemetery. at this moment, i like to call j.j. kelly who placed the marker on the north side of the monument to permanently etch the names of the women here. thank you.
>> i'm j.j. kelly i'm the national chairman for veteran affairs. i'm representing the a.o.h. national board here today. it's an honor and privilege to be able to do so and assist in the dedication of this marker. as erin said, by remembering the sacrifices that these women made, we keep them alive. we keep their memory alive. it's an honor and pleasure to be here to be able to take part in this exercise today. thank you. >> as erin said, this monument was the first ever built in washington that was totally paid for with funds from private citizens. by march of 1865 this monument was already in place. there were items in the
washington talking about the workers building a monument around it. unfortunately the events of april 15, 1865 -- 1865 took the country into a lengthy span of mourning. while at the approximate time when they supposed to be dedicating this monument, the city was in the midst of the lincoln conspiracy trial. we found no record that there was ever a ceremony dedicating this monument. it's fairly difficult. i went so far as to look in newspapers from the 5th, 10th, 25th and the 50th anniversary of this event. there was no mention of it. oddly enough on the 50th anniversary of this was the
johnstown flood. there was a great deal going on. now at this point, just to be correct, i want to say we want to rededicate this monument in the memory of those 21 women, the women who died in support of their families and in support of the cause for freedom that was going on in the united states at that time. we say to these women, thank you for your service. thank you for your sacrifice. this monument does not do justice to your contributions to the price you paid about 150 years later, it stands in memory of you and your lives that were cut short. i like to thank you all for attending. those of who you would like to stay around, i'll go a civil war tour that will include this. aside from that, i want to thank you. i want to thank paul.
i want to thank erin and thank asia and sons of veteran the reserve for being our honor guard. it's been an honor and a privilege to work on everything to lead up to this. so thank you very much. [applause] >> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span 3. follow us on twitter @c-span history for information on our schedule, up coming programs and to keep up with the latest history news. >> 40 years ago, the watergate
scandal led to only res resignation of an american history. american history tv revisits 1974 and the final weeks of the nixon administration. this week open statement from the house judiciary committee. >> selection of the president occupies a very unique position within our political system. it's the one act with the entire country participates. outcomes accepted, the occupant of that office stands as a symbol of our national unity and commitment. it's the judgment of the people to be reversed, it's the majority will to be undone, it's that symbol to be replaced to the action of the elected representative. it must be substantial supported by facts. >> watergate, 40 years later, tonight at 8:00er --
8:00 eastern on american history tv on c-span 3. >> john quincy adams was the second adams to be elected to the white house. he was the second governor to be selected to the white house. he was only one of two anti-slavery presidents to be elected to the white house. he was deeply feared by the south that worried that his vision of a unified country in which the federal government and the states were tauntlers in a relationship that enabled the federal government to play a leading role in binding the country together through infrastructure projects, through
supporting manufacture and so on. it was deeply suspected by the southern states thought indeed he wanted too much problem. >> fred kaplan tonight at 8:00 eastern pacific on c-span's "q&a." >> by this time in the world, lot of soldiers have been away from their homes for about three to four years. they were getting letters home saying the farm is falling to pieces. they are taking supplies from us. there's a large problem with the -- their heart strings were being pulled by their families needing them back home. what he imposed a fairly strict set of orders desserts will be
sometimes shot. moral was so low, about this time, les miserables came out in book form, of course at that time. ....